In February of 2009 my wife, Sumi, and I took a long-anticipated voyage to Antarctica.  It was the seventh continent traveled to in her lifetime and the sixth for me.  Although we normally prefer to plan our own itinerary when traveling, Antarctica is visited by only 30,000 people a year and Earth’s southernmost continent is not easy to reach on your own.  We decided to go along with the UCLA Alumni Association’s annual Antarctic summer expedition aboard the oceangoing vessel  M.S. Le Diamant.

We met up with our group in Buenos Aires, Argentina and were joined by other alumni groups from the U.S. and Canada.  From there we flew to Ushuaia, Argentina near the southern tip of South America where we boarded Le Diamant.

As we crossed the notorious Drake Passage towards the Antarctic Peninsula we were able to attend onboard lectures by Marc Cane on climate change, astronaut Tony England on a previous Antarctic expedition for the U. S. State Department and various naturalists who talked about the wildlife we would encounter on our landings.

Our first crossing of the Drake Passage was uneventful and we were told that we were lucky to encounter calm seas in this area of the Southern Ocean.  We would not be so lucky on our return crossing as we were assaulted by high winds and 25-foot waves that tossed our ship about like a cork and violently shot objects across our cabin.

The furthest south we traveled was the Lemaire Channel, 65° 08’ S, 064° 03’ W, where we had to turn around because of sea ice which was disappointing.  Although we passed over the Antarctic Convergence, I would have liked to travel as far south as possible towards the Antarctic Circle.  Our total distance travelled was 1692 nautical miles.  During his great voyage of 1772-75 Captain James Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time and continued to 71° 10’ S, a farthest south record for the time.  He never sighted the continent, though and it remained undiscovered until 1820.  After that came the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

Despite the rough seas, we had an extraordinary experience and visited some remarkable places as seen in the following photographs.


Expedition to Antarctica  February 2 - 11, 2009